Apple Wins Hollow Victory In Psystar Ruling

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A federal judge has ruled in Apple's favor in its lawsuit against Mac-clone maker Psystar. Prevailing in the court battle seems like it should be a good thing, but what Apple really gets out of the victory is limited market share potential. Uhm, congratulations?

Apple Psystar
Obviously, I am not a lawyer, but it does seem like Apple's case against Psystar was pretty solid. In order to make the Mac operating system work on the PC clone hardware Psystar had to actually hack part of the operating system and replace it with unique code of its own. Even if Apple was being compensated, the result still seems that Psystar was profiting from a derivative work that violates Apple's copyright.

U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup explains in his ruling "In sum, Psystar has violated Apple's exclusive reproduction right, distribution right, and right to create derivative works."

I don't agree that Apple should have the ability to restrict the hardware that I install the Mac OS X software on, but based on the application of existing laws I can understand why Apple won this case. The fact that Apple can leverage existing law to maintain draconian control over how its products are used is a flaw with the laws and their application, not with Apple.

I don't understand or agree with most copyright law and EULA restrictions as they pertain to computer hardware and software. As far as I am concerned, Apple dictating what hardware I can install Mac OS X on is like Doubleday Books telling me where I am allowed to read Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, or like Sony restricting me from playing The Taking of Pelham 123 on a Toshiba DVD player.

Imagine if other industries worked like that. Let's use cars as an example. You pay $30,000 for the privilege of indefinitely 'borrowing' a Chevy Camaro, but General Motors reserves the right to tell you where you can park it. And, if you try to customize or modify it in any way, like changing the factory-default rims or installing a new stereo system, General Motors sues you for creating a 'derivative work'. There would be riots.

I fully understand that I can't reproduce the product in part or whole for redistribution as my own. Got it. But, once I have paid Apple for my copy of Mac OS X it shouldn't be Apple's business any longer what I do with it. If I want to modify it to make an automated toaster oven, or use the DVD as a coaster for my coffee mug that should be my prerogative. Its mine, I paid for it.

This judgment comes in the wake of the recent update Apple released for the Mac OS X operating system that prevents users from creating 'Hackintosh' systems. By removing support for the Intel Atom processor, Apple effectively disabled the ability for users to install Mac OS X on inexpensive netbook hardware.

The Psystar case and the Hackintosh 'update' both work to ensure that Apple retains complete, draconian control of every aspect of Mac ownership. From developing the operating system, to what hardware the operating system can run on, to where you can buy the hardware and software, Apple dictates the customer experience.

The result is a solid operating system and a wonderful customer experience, with little or no potential of growing much beyond its current market share. Apple seems to be generating huge profit and maintaining high customer satisfaction just fine though, so choosing draconian control over market dominance seems to be working out OK.

Tony Bradley tweets as @PCSecurityNews, and can be contacted at his Facebook page.

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